Tribal heritage gets new-age revival

Jharkhand, welcome to the past. And yes, look beyond Hotwar state museum in Ranchi.

Ranchi Jesuits are now working on a revamp of Gumla's Jharkhand Tribal Museum, spending Rs 1 crore on a cultural corridor, a boutique store and a hall depicting evolution of tribal groups of the state.

Jesuits led by Belgian priest Father P.P. Vaneffel had set up the museum in 2005 on St Ignatius High School premises, spending Rs 7 crore. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren inaugurated it.

But now, Ranchi Jesuits ' who have been enriching the state's education, culture and health activities since 1869 when Father A. Stockman landed in Chotanagpur ' believe it is time for the museum to flaunt a new-age overhaul.

The three-pronged plans are designed to hook visitors and catapult them into an interactive and mesmerising world of tribal culture, music and art. The idea is to wrap up the revamp by December 15.

Inside the hall, 10-minute images beamed via a projector will display glimpses of different aspects of Jharkhand, including topography, history, uprisings and tribal heroes. It will also display the evolution of five major tribes ' Oraon, Munda, Ho, Santhal and Kharia ' of Jharkhand.

Paintings, portraits, glass art, wood art, musical instruments related to tribal groups of Jharkhand will be displayed for sale at the boutique.

The cultural corridor will have a unique talking point. It will depict aspects of wedding functions in five major tribal groups Oraon, Munda, Santhali, Ho and Kharia.

Well-known tribal artists like Dilip Toppo, Henry Kerketta, Viraj Ekka and Anuranjan Minz are currently working on the the revamp.

"This is a 21st century effort to preserve tribal life and culture. The museum's new sections will tell the story of our tribal groups, their life, culture and history through pictures, illustrations and wall paintings, all by indigenous artists," said George Sunil Kesaria, the project manager.

Gumla district, inhabited mostly by Oraons, Mundas and Kharias, retains its position as a tribal culture hub despite the onslaught of uniform modernity. The museum revamp may well cement its reputation.

The seven-year-old museum also boasts a collection of original articles used by tribal groups their daily life. These include the kulhu, an seed oil extractor, dheki, which husks grain from paddy, as well as a tumba, a vessel for drinking water. Rooms sport the look of tribal huts.

"Those who have come before will see plenty of new additions. And we promise an unforgettable tryst with the past for first-time visitors," said J. Kullu, another executive working at the museum.